Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Service with a smile

The Wallace Monument, Stirling

I plucked this superb image off the web. I hope the owner doesn't mind.

There are tons of images, just search for 'wallace monument images' and see what's on offer

Service with a smile

Christmas is rushing towards us. Each year my sister and I take our dear old Mum Christmas shopping. Because she crawls along with two walking sticks, this trip always involves arriving at the shopping centre in Stirling and plonking Mum on a bench while I go in search of a courtesy wheelchair. We then wheech her round the designated shops buying appropriate gift vouchers for all her family. It would be easier for her and me if she handed me a list and I bought the lot for her, but this annual tradition means she still retains her independence and has a certain satisfaction that she bought the gifts herself.

In the past years Mum has received mixed reception from sales assistants. Many fall into the stereotypical role of talking over her head and addressing all questions to her able bodied daughters, but this year was different. Stores are finally clued up to the needs and feelings of the disabled. Every store assistant we encountered this week addressed my mum directly, and took the time to hand her the chip and pin machines on curly stretchy cords, to allow her to pay. It was easy.

All the stores have left to do now is to sort out the narrow lanes leading up to the checkouts to prevent me knocking over towers 3 for £5 Cadbury Selection Boxes and baskets of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges with a wheel chair

Good Local Food

Another tradition is Mum treating her daughters to lunch. This year we went to The Coffee Bothy in Blairlogie, a little village just outside Stirling. This former farmhouse serves wholesome food in a restaurant which is shadowed by the burnished Ochil Hills and has stunning uninterrupted view towards the majestic Wallace Monument.

Like many country restaurants in the Stirling and Trossachs area The Coffee Bothy has the formula sussed for its intended clientele, ‘silver scone scoffers’. They have acres of parking on flat land, a short trundle from the building. No hassle for the ‘auld yins’. I have been reliably informed that at weekends the place is stowed. The big plus for me is the farm shop which sells local produce as well as organic, whole food and luxury products.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Writing, reading and music

The Black Cab Sessions

Check out the website. One singer, one song, one black cab, that's the theme. BCS are currently presenting twenty chapters on the website. It's an unusual way to listen to music and see some sights around London on the way. The cabbies seem to enjoy themselves too.

The featured clip is by Emmy the Great. Her myspace has more mellow tunes to sample.

Artist's Waywardness

I have fallen off the Artist's Way. Oh, I try to read through the weekly chapters and I do try to work most of the exercises, but I find it is distracting me from my other writings. I will persevere and finish the exercises for the end of this year, but the course is receiving low priority from me these day.

Top Priority

The Scottish Association Of Writers is holding its annual conference in March 2008. I have registered to attend for the first time ever. They have a full programme of events, but the attraction for me is the many competitions the conference holds. Entries must be submitted in January, but I have been assured by previous conference attendees, that even though you may be unsuccessful in the prizes, each entry receives a full crit. I intend to make the most of this opportunity.

Just Read

Yesterday I underwent day surgery. after receiving a full anesthetic in the morning I wasn't up to much in the afternoon, I did my Elizabeth Barrett Browning impersonation, wrapped myself in a duvet and played invalid. I also read The White Bird Passes by Jessie Kesson from cover to cover. This book, set in the 1920s and written in 1958, tell the story of Janie MacVean, a small girl of eight growing up in poverty in The Lane, a backstreet of a city in North East Scotland. The story is semi autobiographical, but unlike the reams of hard luck fiction that fills the supermarket shelves these days, this novel contains some of the best prose writing I have read in a while. her characterisations are alive, the language is filled with poetic imagery and stunning metaphors. But it is the third person narrative of Janie that makes this book a classic. It is heartbreaking and funny without being sentimental.

I now own three Jessie Kesson novels, reprinted by B & W Publishing. These small volumes are a treasure. The front covers are emotive paintings by Dorothy Johnstone , a contemporary of Mrs Kesson. Two of these books I picked up from my favorite book seller, Oxfam Bookstore in Byres Road.

Thank you

I would just like to commend and thank the staff at Gartnavel Hospital Day Surgery. I have never been in hospital before and was terrified because of all the stories I hear of the British National Health Service. My experience yesterday was unbelievable. The day surgery was run with precision timing, I was processed through a number of well rehearsed steps and made to feel safe and well. All the staff were kind, helpful and friendly. The tea and toast was fab.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

National No Music Day

I wonder how this little lady is coping with National No Music Day. Better than me I hope.

Today is National No Music Day. A torture thought up by Bill Drummond formally of KLF. Bill had the bright idea that, because we take music for granted, we should work harder at appreciating it. Would we look at music differently once we were deprived of it? Well today we can find out while we starve ourselves of tunes.

It’s a shame because I had a great website to add to the blog today, but because it’s a music site it will need to wait for another time.

Not even a jingle is being played on Radio Scotland as it enters into the spirit of the day. This is a brave move and a great challenge for the music programmes. Tom Morton has made a not too bad job of filling his 2-4pm daytime slot with fascinating music interviews.

I can’t cope with listening to another ‘no’ music show but I have faith Brian Burnett will romp through his ‘Get it On’ hour. It will take him an hour to read out all the complaints I predict he will receive from his regular listeners.

I tried to deprive myself of music today but it was impossible. A trip into Glasgow saw me running out of shops the minute I realised music was playing. But it was unavoidable when I reached my final destination, Oran Mor, Byres Road. Oran Mor’s lunchtime theatre, A Play, A Pie and A Pint was airing its 100th play, which I was determined not to miss, unfortunately it was a musical!!!!!

And does this mean I can’t play my guitar tonight?

A Play, A Pie and A Pint

For the past couple of years I have been a regular attendee at Oran Mor’s lunchtime theatre productions. The event began 100 plays ago when Producer Dave McLennan and Scottish theatre legend Dave Anderson sat in the audience of a lunchtime theatre in Bewley's, Dublin. They brought the idea back to Glasgow and although it was slow to catch on, it is now hugely successful and part of a West End tradition. Dave McLennan has created a platform for new, one hour plays, to be staged, and although some of the plays don't hit the mark, most are exceptional. Good or bad, they are all superbly produced and performed by a wide range of talented actors and stage crews..

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A wild holiday

Callakille, Applecross

Callakille is the remote croft situated about seven miles north of the village of Applecross, Ross-shire. The house, owned by creator Rosi Brown, is the perfect place to relax and allow the wild west wind to blow the stresses away. It was certainly wild and windy while I was there last week but the cosy log burning stove and the robust traditional croft structure meant I could just snuggled in with my books and my guitar on extreme weather days. The location of this house is perfect for a novice guitar player. Access to the rocky beach just behind the house means it is possible to venture out doors and experience breathtaking gulps of fresh air and marvel at the views of islands Raasay, Rhona and Skye.

I had few good walking days around the peninsula and in nearby Torridon, after which the award winning Applecross Inn welcomed me in from the cold, with a warm open fire and great grub. And because I am a frequent visitor to this part of the country I could catch up with old friends.
The Potting Shed Restaurant ,which nestles in a walled garden on Applecross House grounds, serves fantastic locally produced food for lunch and dinner, but at this time of year is only open Saturday and Sunday.

Home to winter

Winter's here and in a way I am relieved. I love my garden but I am glad when I don’t have to spend so much time weeding. The glorious coloured leaves of Autumn have scattered to the ground. Being an avid composter, I collected the leaves from the garden and filled two ‘Love ‘em and Leave ‘em’ biodegradable leaf sacks. The label on the sack tells me by next spring I should have ‘nutritional leaf mould ready for use’. Can't wait!

Friday, 2 November 2007

What a performance

Sigur Rós

Venus as a Boy

One of the best books I have read this year is Venus as a Boy by writer and musician Luke Sutherland. I heard the author on the radio a few months back talking about his the forthcoming adaptation of this extraordinary book. I was so enthralled by the story I bought the book and on Wednesday this week went to see the National Theatre of Scotland production at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow. This is part of the Glasgay festival.

The narration begins with the author being approached in London by a young boy Pascal, who asks Luke to record the story of his dying friend, Cupid. Cupid claims to have known the author in Orkney. After ignoring this plea Luke was surprised, when a couple of weeks later, he received a package containing tapes of Cupid’s story.

This is the tale of a boy with a gift of love. Through lovemaking he can offer the most miserable beings a glimpse into the wonders of heaven. The story follows him from his tortured childhood in Orkney to pot washing in Ullapool, where he discovers his gift. After a stint in Edinburgh he is forced into male prostitution in London.

The book is crammed with original observations and a poetic language that grasps the gut with its simplistic beauty.

The Tam Dean Burn's stage adaptation is equally awe-inspiring. Mr Burn acts and directs and makes the piece his own. He relives the life of Cupid aided only by Luke Sutherland, the author himself, who performs his spine tingling score as accompaniment to the narration. Mr Burn’s performance, in the intimate Citizen's Circle Studio, is exhausting and emotional to watch, he must feel wrecked after the hour and a half performance.
The Citizen’s run ends on the 10th of October. The production will then move to Liverpool.

New music and film (to me)

A new film ‘heima’ is released next week. The film features the music and artistic creations of Icelandic band Sigur Rós. I have been listening to downloads featured on their website all afternoon and am hooked – check them out!

I won’t have time to go see the film, which is screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), because I am off on holiday to my beloved Applecross, the place I fell in love with ten years ago and pilgrimage to every year.

Applecross Bay